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Monday, March 14, 2016

AirAsia Big Sale Hacks- Your step by step guide to cheapest tickets!

Most of us want to travel to far away destinations, but flight tickets are the primary expense for most of us and they are often un-affordably expensive. Thanks to budget airlines like Air Asia, TigerAir and the likes, it is now really possible to save a chunk of money otherwise spent on just reaching the destination and can instead be spent AT the destination.

Air Asia is one of the best low cost airlines in the world and they are growing fast. If you can book at the right moment and price, you can reach any destination for half the price of a full service airlines. This is possible if you can plan well and book your tickets during any discount sale, often known as Air Asia Big Sale. AirAsia conducts one every 4-6 months. I have benefited from AirAsia big sale personally- have traveled to Malaysia, Bangkok and recently to Macau, Australia, Bali (Indonesia) for a ticket price 40% cheaper than cheapest full service airline. I have few more Air Asia trips lined up for 2017. This post shares a set of tips and tricks you can use to get best deal during any Air Asia big sale.

Making the most of Air Asia big sale to get cheapest possible tickets- ever!

Before the Big sale:
It takes good amount of research and preparation much before the discount sale opens. Following points guide you to prepare well for an Air Asia Big Sale

1. Create an account on Air Asia, get your big shot ID. This will get you a 24 hour priority access to sales. Unfortunately there is no referral scheme on AirAsia.

2. Add guest profile of your friends/family members for whom you are looking to book the tickets- ensure to enter proper spelling in the name, correct date of birth, passport details etc. Cross check every detail again to be 100% sure. This will let you add guests in a single click during actual booking, instead of entering all guest details again.

3. Research your potential target destinations.

I am sure you will have some dream destinations that you are keen to book. Browse the AirAsia website to identify 4-5 top destinations that interests you. Note that destination served may vary based on origin city (Example: From Bengaluru Air Asia connects to MDL, Burma, but from Chennai it doesn't, though in theory there is no reason why it is not possible) For each destination, check following aspects
  • Check what are the AirAsia flight timings- is it convenient etc. Keep an eye on connection time, departure and arrival time to ensure these are fine for you. Spending too much time in transit airport could be boring and may take away significant amount of your holiday. But if you plan to go out into city, then transit time can be put to good use. You don't want to spend 3 days out of your 6 days holiday flying or in airports. Do you?
  • Check which airport in destination city Air Asia is flying into. To save money, Air Asia flies into cheaper airports away from city wherever possible and not necessarily to main airports. If there is no public transportation available (particularly at night)- you will end up spending huge amount of money on taxi, which may nullify your savings in flight ticket. Ensure that you have done some basic checks on the destination airport.
  • Check visa requirements, visa fee and validity- sometimes, Visa expense could be more than ticket cost. If you can get visa on arrival or if visa is valid for longer term with multiple entry then an expensive visa might be worth, else you need to take a decision if you should still consider that country or go somewhere else. (For Australia, ticket was 32k but Australia tourist visa was 8.3k+, for Malaysia, you may get return ticket for 7K, but Malaysia tourist visa will cost about 3.5 K (Visa validity if longer, can be used for multiple trips). Flight tickets are only part of the expense- trip should be economically viable on all aspects.
  • Check minimum how much time it takes to explore the destination you have in mind.  If a trip as to be satisfactory, you should spend minimum required time at the destination to explore key attractions. However cheap the ticket may be, no point going all the way to Australia for 3 days. But for nearby destinations like Kuala Lumpur/Bangkok, a 3-4 day long weekend getaway might be just fine. At the same time, keeping it too long might cause concerns like leave problems, increased accommodation costs, time away from family/business etc. So you should identify the right duration (gap between arrival and return dates)
  • Check what are the rates when there is no sale, what is the rate in a full service airline. Try for 3-4 different date ranges, 4-6 months from now, to get a fair idea of normal rates for the destination. This preparation will help you make a more informed decision like what rate is really cheap and what rate is close to normal rates (i.e. not worth booking in a sale). I have already written a separate post on Air Asia benchmark prices- what is the lowest rate I have seen for some of the key destinations. AirAsia might also be advertising lowest fares on offer during the sale.
4. Ensure that adequate cash is available in your bank account whose internet banking you can use. Paying  by internet banking is lot cheaper than paying by credit card. (For a 15000 Rs ticket, credit card payment attracts a fee of Rs 600+ while internet banking payment costs Rs 80- so you can save considerable amount by paying through your bank account instead of credit card. Be sure to have enough balance. If normal ticket fare is 15k, you should expect a sale fare of 50-60% of this amount. Ensure adequate balance depending on destinations you have shortlisted, approx fare and no of people.

5. Your team: If you are planning to book for your friends also, assess the risk of them not paying you the ticket fare or backing out later. If you offer to book for them I am sure lots of them will express interest to join and ask you to book for them. But by the time travel date nears, their priorities may change- you may not get paid and changing the ticket will be next to impossible. So it is better to let your friends book themselves- less headache and financial risk that way- you can always coordinate dates on whatsapp etc. Otherwise take some advance money from them.

6. Be mentally prepared for the risk involved in booking tickets so early- Any sale requires you to book tickets several months ahead of actual travel date. You forgo the interest, cheap tickets also come with a set of restrictions like no-refund etc-your plans and priorities may change, you may not get leave, airline may go bankrupt (hopefully not, else I am doomed!), flight schedules may change, destination city may develop problems (like volcanic ash), some emergencies may come up resulting in your inability to travel as planned. While you get to save 40-70% of normal fare, you should be ready for the risk that you might loose all that if you can't travel as planned. Please check this post for details

7. Identify target dates- weekend departures will get sold out fast or will be expensive. Mid week departures are usually cheaper. December is a bad month to travel. Tourist season at the destination also should be factored. From the sale period, identify couple of date ranges most suited for you.

8. Decide if you can manage without check-in luggage or what other services you will need. For nearby destinations or if you don't have heavy stuff (like camera etc) you might be able to manage with 7 kg hand bag allowance. Else you might need to pay extra for check-in bag. If there are 2-3 people, it might be enough to buy check-in bag for one person alone. Depending on your needs, make up your mind what all you want to buy upfront (baggage, food, insurance, seat selection etc) and what can be skipped. If you have clear decision, you won't have to scramble during actual booking.

Summary- Checklist before AirAsia Big Sale begins
  1. Your AirAsia account is active
  2. You have added details of all potential passengers and have cross checked their details
  3. Enough cash in your bank account with internet banking
  4. You have a list of shortlisted destinations, approx duration of trip and dates (you can refer 2017 Long weekend calendar here)
  5. You have a sense of what amount is very cheap, what is normal rate and what is expensive
Now you are all set.
During the Big sale:

Once Big sale opens, first 30-60 minutes will be a nightmare to login – app will crash/won’t log you in unable to handle too much traffic. Try once or twice- if you can’t get through, do not worry, wait for 30 mins and retry. Desktop/laptop will give you better chance than the app/mobile.

Enter the origin-destination and target dates you have in mind. Note down the fare shown. Try for 4-5 different date combinations to identify the lowest fare. During Sale AirAsia will disable the display that shows fare on adjacent dates, so as to increase the chance of someone booking at higher fare. We need to try several combination of dates to get a sense of what is cheapest. As a thumb rule- if fare is one third of normal fare, then it is a killer deal. if is in the range of 40-60% of normal fare, it is good deal if date n time are suitable. If savings is less than 33%, I feel it is not worth booking 6-9 months early taking so much chance and losing interest.

Now try to fine tune for a date range that suits your needs- sometimes onward will be cheap but return is expensive or vice-versa. You should try multiple combinations to land best deal. About 10-15% compromise on the lowest seen fare is OK if the date and time is more convenient to you.

Always search for low fares with one passenger. Else system may show higher fare (Say only 1 seat is left at 5000 and next seat is at 7000- if you search with 2 pax, system will show 14000 as total amount, not 12000)

Once you have identified best combination of fare, date, timing etc that will work for you, go ahead and book. Be careful about system selected additional expenses- like insurance, seat selection fee, baggage etc- if you don't need them, unselect. (you can always add them later). Pay with net banking and you are done!

If you can't land a fare which is at least 40-50% cheaper than normal fare, then do not bother booking in a sale. It may not be worth booking so early paying almost same as a normal day fare. Wait for another 3-4 months for next sale.(Because tickets sold on Big Sale are non-refundable, you will be losing interest for several months etc, the risk is not worth if savings are not high)

Did I miss anything? Do comment. Have you booked any cheap tickets in AirAsia sale? Do share your experience.

Happy flying!

Similar posts: Europe's cheapest airline- RyanAir experience * Comparison of European Airlines *  AirAsia inflight WiFi- good bad and ugly * AirAsia Bali airport closure experience *

19 comments :

shutterbugruts said...

Shri, After long time I am reading your post as been away from blog life.I have travelled across Malaysia and If he replaced with air asia..This post is well written with great research ....I like the best part about your post is the research in it..Not many do that..Good one :)

shutterbugruts said...

Shri, After long time I am reading your post as been away from blog life.I have travelled across Malaysia and If he replaced with air asia..This post is well written with great research ....I like the best part about your post is the research in it..Not many do that..Good one :)

Dhananjay Murthy said...

If could through a light on Fly through service of Air Asia in Bangkonk & malaysia airports, it would have been complete.
To give an example we had ticket from Chennai to Bangkok and IN next two hours we had ticket to Bangkok to Siem Reap. But it is not fly through ticket and Air asia will not allow this for this sector, we need to PAY visa charge and again need to come in through check in process it is completely waste of money, . May be you have seen in Bangkok airport, Air asia have separate door for their fly through passengers for next destination near to visa counter it is on left hand side.
If customer travelling different location if Fly through service available they must use to avoid immigration,stamping and visa fee.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Rutavi.

@Dhananjay- I didn't face any issue while I transit through Kuala Lumpur. Baggage was checked in through to Melbourne and I could wait in airport. But I had long transit and Malaysia visa, so I opted to go out into town with my hand baggage.

Not very sure about Bangkok- call centre said they will facilitate through check in now. How recent was your experience? Yes, taking visa for transit just makes it lot complicated and expensive.

SandeepaChetan said...

Thank you Shri for writing this post. Today we did our Auckland bookings through AirAsia and we stumbled upon your new post. As you said, we couldn't sign in from Mac. We then directly called toll free number. Customer care did bookings and generated a PNR which stays active for 90 minutes. We were told to login through Big Shot account for payment to close the transaction within 90 minutes. We couldn't sign in for some reason. We did smart thing, we had asked them to give a call for payment confirmation. We did payment through credit card IVR gateway. Customer care was extremely helpful and they were with us on call for 40 minutes for guiding us at every step. There are no additional charges for use of credit card. Only problem is Airport is 1540 Kms away from home. So after adding all additional travel expenses like baggage allowance, booking service fee and cost to airport travel we've saved 10K each. (approx 20% savings). It works out great for travellers with no time restrictions. The risk reward ratio is not fair for business travellers who often look for flexibility and fast travel.
On our return we have 16 hrs of transit halt at KL? Do you think we can make a good use of that time? We do not have Malaysia visa yet.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Sandeepa
Good to know your experience. Have nice trip to NZ. Yes, call centre is another way, but at times takes more time.

Yes, you should get Malaysia visa and do some sight seeing... Visa will be valid for one year so you can use for future trips also.

SandeepaChetan said...

Thank you Shri. Unfortunately we are not be able to get visa before we fly out so we will miss the opportunity unless some miracle happens :-)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

It takes 4 days.. you booked tickets for like next week?

Bushra Muzaffar said...

This is a great post on savings for anybody traveling by air. 10K savings is huge as Sandeepa pointed out... love your posts that come with some great practical tips. I make mental notes of these..and have recommended your blog to my friends who are frequent travelers.

Ami said...

Was attempting this yesterday ...did not work out :( Will try again

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Ami: Try next time. Current Big sale might be over or all cheap seats sold out

@Bushra- thanks for the kind words

Dhananjay Murthy said...

While you have to book the ticket you need to use Multiycity option. then we need not go through immigration. But non of the indian cities are in the list as this facility available only for AirAsia X (D7) flights.

1.Except for Fly-thru routes, all passengers must clear Immigration and re-check in for their onward flight.
2. For Fly-thru routes, passengers are not required to clear immigration.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

If you can book entire trip and back in one PNR, then it is fly through- no need to go out of airport. If you book individual tickets (separate PNR) then yes, they are treated as separate bookings. Correct me if your experience is different.

Sadhvi said...

Very detailed and informative post, thank you

Swati & Sam said...

One more awesome and useful post with all hacks ... Air Asia is soon gonna make you their brand ambassador :) :)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Sandhvi- you're welcome

@Swati- Thanks. Not sure how AirAsia will react- this is written more in consumer's interest than brand's

Anonymous said...


I constantly spent my half an hour to read this weblog’s posts everyday along with a mug of coffee.

Chill Karo Yaar Pooja Bhatt said...

I am reading a Post like this for the first time - the hacks are tremenduous and of Gr8 help. Bookmarked this Post.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Puja.. all the best

@Anon- Thanks